Category Archives: wearable technology

AnemoneStarHeart at ISWC Design Exhibition, 2016, Heidelberg, Germany.

Last month (September 2016) I traveled to Heidelberg, Germany, for the 20th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC), held at the gorgeous art nouveau Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg. ISWC is the world’s foremost symposium for issues pertaining to on the body and worn wearable technologies and shares a conference venue with Ubicomp, concerned with ubiquitous computing. The symposium attracts attendees from all over the world: from researchers to designers, start-ups and manufacturers, all eager to hear about the latest advances and products, prototypes and related information.
ISWC 2016
Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg, venue for ISWC/Ubicomp 2016

2016 is my 5th year of attending ISWC and my 5th year of exhibiting my wearable tech work in its Design Exhibition, which requires the submission of a paper to a jury who select work to appear at the exhibition in the categories of Aesthetic, Functional and Fibre Arts. The exhibition took place in the Sebastian Münster Saal of Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg over 3 days of the symposium.

Setting up Anemonestarheart for ISWC Design Exhibition

AnemoneStarHeart.

This year I exhibited my AnemoneStarHeart EEG pendant, an emotive wearable and multifunctional device. It is an illuminated, 3D printed heart-shaped pendant, that is an iteration of my 2013 EEG Visualising Pendant for social situations. It evolved via input from my focus group and field trial feedback looking at potential wearers of emotive wearables. Its aim is to be used for visualising and displaying EEG data between couples, close friends and family, either worn, held or used to light up a room via its super bright RGB LEDs. It is also a device to aid the wearer’s relaxation or productivity monitoring purposes, for example through meditation. The device maps ‘meditation’ and ‘attention’ data sent from an EEG headset and displays it by illuminating the AnemoneStarHeart pendant accordingly. If you would like to read my ISWC paper on AnemoneStarHeart, it’s available from the ACM Digital Library or please ask for a copy.

AnemoneStarHeart ready for ISWC Design Exhibition

Highlights of the Design Exhibition included: Jorge & Esther’s Programmable Plaid dress, Lucie Hernandez encouraged play through textiles with her Touchplay: Crafting Material Affinities work, Berit Greinke et al’s Interactive Workwear: Smart Maintenance Jacket, and Sally-Sue Lee et al’s Fleurtech: Transformable Smart Dress, which changed in length for changing situations and contexts. Details of all exhibits can be found here. Thanks very much to James Hallam for his tireless work as Design Exhibition chair this year. If you’d like to read my paper on AnemoneStarHeart it’s available from the ACM or ask me for a copy.

Design Exhibition at ISWC

Jorge & Esther’s Programmable Plaid dress.

Before the full conference began I attended two days of workshops. The first was run as a collaboration of MIT Media Lab, Harvard Medical School, Saarland University and Microsoft Research: (UnderWare) Aesthetic, Expressive, and Functional On-Skin Technologies. It  comprised of an exciting day of presentations from researchers and designers from around the world of their amazing wearable technology prototypes to be worn on the skin. There included many questions and discussion on subjects as diverse as ethics to the challenges of retail/production

Marina Toeters at MIT + Microsoft Underware:Aesthetic, Expressive, and Functional On-Skin Technologies workshop

(UnderWare) Aesthetic, Expressive, and Functional On-Skin Technologies workshop, Marina Toeters presenting.

Troy & his diabetic 3D printed shoe

One of Troy Nachtigall’s diabetic shoe prototypes at the Underware workshop.

On day two, I attended Collective Adaptation in Very Large Scale Ubicomp: Towards a Superorganism of Wearables, a fascinating workshop which discussed how connected devices could shape planetary supeorganism networks and looked at questions such as how we program these as a single system to work for us and help us in everyday situations from crowd control to infrastructure and the management of large complex hubs such as transport or hospital management.

Cindy Hsin Lio Kao's amazing DuoSkin tattoos

Cindy Hsin Lio Kao et al’s amazing DuoSkin tattoos.

The conference then spanned the next three days with sessions focusing on topics from fabrics, textiles and skin made smart to haptics, activity recognition and sensing, extended realities, industry and interaction. More details can be found on the ISWC website and papers can be found in the proceedings. The final day keynote was given by Rosalind Picard, whose work with affective computing has been an important and inspirational contribution to my field in physiological data capturing wearables. I was lucky enough to meet her and briefly show her my AnemoneStarHeart pendant.

Honoured to meet Ros Picard at ISWC after her keynote

Meeting Rosalind Picard after her keynote at ISWC.

ISWC/Ubicomp is going to be held in Maui, Hawaii, next year! In order to take part I’m going to need some serious funding, so please send any ideas/opportunities for financing my trip.

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ThinkerBelle Fibre Optic EEG Amplifying Dress

ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress

I’m writing up my PhD thesis at the moment and analysing a huge amount of data from over 70 surveys and 8 hours of focus group audio transcripts. Anyway, without giving away too much about the data, as I’m saving it for my thesis, here’s a little preview of my ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress. I created this dress in response to a subsection of feedback data from my field trials and focus groups, which investigated the functionality, aesthetics and user experience of wearables and in particular wearer and observer feedback on experiences with my EEG Visualising Pendant. The motivation for creating the dress was for engagement in social situations in which the wearer might find themselves in a noisy or crowded area, where it is not possible to hear others and communicate easily – where forms of non-verbal communication may be useful. The dress broadcasts the meditation and attention data of the wearer for observers to make their own interpretations. It is up to the wearer if they want to divulge information regarding the physiological source of the data being visualised.


A short video of the dress.


A longer video of the dress shot in Tokyo, Japan.

ThinkerBelle fibre optic EEG dress

The dress was constructed with a satin fabric and fibre optic filament woven into organza. Using a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset signals in the form of two separate streams, ‘attention’ and meditation’, are sent via Bluetooth to the dress, which amplifies and visualises the data via the fibre optic filament. Attention data is shown as red light and meditation signal data as green light. The dress is constructed so the two streams of data light overlap and interweave. The fibre optic filament is repositionable allowing the wearer to make their own lighting arrangements and dress design. The red and green light fades in an out as the levels of attention and meditation data of wearer highten or decline.

The dress’ hardware has a choice of modes, so it is possible to record and playback the data. This makes it possible for the wearer to appear to be concentrating or relaxed if wished to influence a social situation, what I call ’emotive engineering’. Also if the wearer would like to use their EEG data to create a certain mix of colour and light on the dress. It is also possible to set the playback mode and take off the EEG headset if the wearer wants to be headset free. If you’d like to read my ISWC 15 paper on the dress, it’s available from the ACM or ask me for a copy.

ThinkerBelle fibre optic EEG dress
Red = attention / green = meditation

As you can see I’ve included a few initial photos of the dress in action showing the EEG data as it is received from the headset. I have not made a successful video of the dress yet, as it’s difficult to light the dress for photos and filming. I will add a video when I’ve worked around this!

I have also been experimenting with changing the form factor of the headset for aesthetic and comfort, using various materials.

ThinkerBelle fibre optic EEG dress
Feeling relaxed = very green dress!

A bit of extra info, in case you were wondering… During my PhD research, I’ve been investigating the possibility of that wearable technology can be used with physiological data to create new forms of non-verbal communication. Since 2008 I’ve been experimenting with wearables, sensors and social situations, which led me to focus on wearables. These wearables amplify visualise and broadcast data from the body. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the field of wearable technology has blossomed and grown rapidly in recent years into a huge and mainly undefined set of devices, platforms, uses and practice. It was therefore necessary for me (a couple of years ago now) to create my own nomenclature to define the area I was creating and researching in. The first subset area being ‘responsive wearables’, which deals with wearables that respond to various physiological, environmental and other user related data and gives an output. This worked for a short while but still wasn’t definitive. I went on to drill down and make a new subset of this area to find a better definition for the emerging field I was working in, which I named ‘emotive wearables’. This area focuses on the area of wearable technology which deals with the gleaning of physiological data from the body, processes and broadcasts it in some way from the wearer. The output could be sound, movement, light, etc.

ThinkerBelle fibre optic EEG dress

My research with sensors, social situations, ambient and physiological data has led me to work with sound signal input (decibels), temperature (Celsius), pressure (Pascal) and altitude (metres) ECG (Electrocardiography), GSR (Galvanic Skin Response), EMG (Electromyography) and EEG (Electroencephalography), but my main focus for my PhD has been on the development and research of emotive wearables with EEG data.

AnemoneStarHeart EEG / ECG visualising device at Transmission Symposium

AnemoneStarHeart handheld EEG/ECG Visualising Device

At the end of April I spent a very enjoyable day at Bournemouth University attending Transmission Symposium: Strategies for Brainwave Interpretation in the Arts. There were some very interesting presentations, exchanges of ideas and discussion on the intersection between art, cognition and technology. Links to the event, artists and scientists taking part can be found here. Thank you to Oliver Gingrich for inviting me to participate and to all the attendees, especially those who visited my emotive wearable exhibits, asked questions and/or tried a device and filled in a feedback survey.

At Transmission Symposium I debuted my AnemoneStarHeart, which is a pendant which can also be used as handheld or standalone device (smaller version being tweaked!) I have developed for broadcasting, amplifying and visualising EEG and ECG data. I have been developing this device as part of the iteration process of the EEG Visualising Pendant. It brings together technology and elements from my aforementioned EEG Visualising Pendant and Flutter ECG pendant hack.

Watching 'Canal Trip' on BBC4 with AnemoneStarHeart broadcasting / visualising EEG
AnemoneStarHeart being used as an ambient device to observe relaxation whilst watching ‘Canal Trip’ slow TV programme, BBC4, May 15.

It can be used, for example as an aid for meditation, relaxation and concentration, as well as for personal viewing or sharing physiological data in social situations with others. Data is sent to the AnemoneStarHeart via Bluetooth and it is a battery operated, standalone device. It can either be worn as a pendant, viewed in the palm of the hand or placed in a convenient area of a room – illuminating the space with coloured light. Whilst sensors are transmitting data to the device, it constantly visualises it, changing colour and brightness based on the data it receives. The smaller, wearable version hangs from a chain as a necklace or in the style of a pocket watch so it can be brought out, looked at, then put away again. As I am interested in the commercial possibilities of bespoke couture wearables and small editions of emotive devices, at some point I aspire to crowdfund this project.

AnemoneStarHeart lit up with live EEG data

As part of my PhD research, I have spent the best part of a year organising and running focus groups with potential users of emotive wearables and the EEG Visualising Pendant in London and Amsterdam. I have also conducted field trials in various social and work situations across London and Brighton, plus collected feedback from observers of the pendant. Since the beginning of 2015 I have been analysing the resulting data. This is to discover the preferences and feedback of potential wearers of emotive wearables as well as the EEG Visualising Pendant. Out of the resulting data, so far, has evolved the AnemoneStarHeart device, for which I devised a new configuration of electronic components and code. I created a new enclosure for the electronics in 3D modelling package Rhino, with help from skills learned at Francis Bitonti’s computational design workshop. It was selective laser sintered (SLS) in Nylon, in one of D2W’s EOS machines in London.

Rain & AnemoneStarHeart lit up with live EEG data

At the moment I am mostly out of general circulation as I’m collecting and analysing data which is feeding into the new emotive wearable devices I am building, whilst simultaneously endeavoring to write up / finish my PhD thesis to deadline.

Francis Bitonti’s New Skins Workshop 2015 at Digits2Widgets, London

Containers of work to be opened!

After staying in writing over Xmas and New Year, I was very excited to escape the confines of my desk to join Francis Bitonti’s New Skins Workshop on computational design for textiles, for two weeks at Digits2Widgets 3D printing bureau in Camden.

The workshops consisted of alternating tutorials on techniques for creating 3D textile meshes in Autodesk Maya and Rhino 3D software, and also writing Processing sketches for 3D graphics. The workshops were taught by Francis Bitonti and Arthur Azoulai.

Tom modelling textures on the body in Rhino 3D
Tom’s work on wrapping mesh to make a shirt around a body.

Our first week started off by creating meshes for the body in skirt and shirt like forms in Rhino 3D. We then experimented with various mesh techniques to apply varied distributions of extruded geometric shapes on to a mesh. Going on to concentrate on creating interlocking aspects of a circle, we created a repeated template that could be used to create chainmail in Rhino 3D.

Magdalena making chain mail in Rhino
Magdalena making chain mail for textiles in Rhino 3D.

In Maya we played with primitive polygon shapes and then experimented with them in the animation timeline to flip and tween between shapes, which we could then start to turn into mesh textiles by joining them together.

New Skins Workshop montage
L-R work by Victoria, Ezmeralda, Tom and Ioana.

After discussing our ideas and designs for what we would like to individually create, we spent a couple of days building our own meshes. Every .STL file was checked over and fixed in Materialise’s very useful app, Magics (which I wish I could afford for future work!), before sending to the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) machine to be turned into real objects via the magic of a laser zapping powdered nylon.

New Skins Workshop montage
L-R work by Nada, Magdalena, me and Carmen.

Whilst the objects in the machine were being turned around, which takes several hours as the cubicle inside the machine stacks up several files / containers of work to be processed at a time, we did some examples of Processing sketches to create 3D graphics. We also learned about other software packages such as ZBrush, which is a powerful 3D sculpturing tool for manipulating 3D objects and looks like amazing fun to play with.

Two heart shapes for a locket to contain electronics
My design shaping up in Rhino 3D.

AnemoneStarsHeart pieces
The container with my heart halves inside just opened by Johnathan!

Of course the most exciting part of the two-weeks was receiving the containers from the SLS machine, with the fruits of our creativity neatly concealed inside! I created a heart-shaped shell enclosure /pendant with a repeated star mesh to create an anemone-like effect. This was created to house the electronics and act as a diffuser of data in the form of coloured light for the next iteration of my EEG Visualising Pendant. The pendant amplifies and visualises attention and meditation EEG data from the wearer via a NeuroSky EEG headset.

AnemoneStarsHeart heart lit up with live EEG data
AnemoneStarsHeart lit up with live EEG data from my brainz!

Rain & AnemoneStarsHeart heart lit up with live EEG data
AnemoneStarsHeart lit up with live EEG data via Bluetooth NeuroSky MindWave headset.

Many thanks to Francis, Arthur, Jonathan and the staff at D2W for a great two weeks of fun and excellent hospitality, plus not forgetting the lovely attendees of the workshop who were fab to hang out with.

Baroesque Barometric Skirt in New Scientist & on show at Microsoft Research, Redmond, USA

As we trundle into the dark winter days of 2014, I will be locking myself away to write, so I won’t be traveling to show my work in any exciting cities for a while.

So, just a couple of nuggets of recent news on my Baroesque Barometric Skirt – I was delighted to hear that it had been featured in the ‘One Per Cent’ column in New Scientist Magazine, September 27th issue, which reported on it being shown at the ISWC (International Symposium on Wearable Computing) Design Exhibition at the EMP Museum in Seattle last September. If you’d like to read my paper on the skirt it is available from the ACM or ask me for a copy.

My Barometric Skirt in New Scientist, in Mayday Hosp shop
The Baroesque Barometric Skirt featured in New Scientist

Rain & New Scientist, which contains pic & mention of Baroesque Barometric Skirt
Me being chuffed in Smiths with a copy of New Scientist

The Baroesque Barometric Skirt was also on display at Microsoft Research Gallery during September and October, which was organised by Asta Roseway of Microsoft Research and Troy Natchtigall, chair of the ISWC Design Exhibition. The skirt, which is part of my PhD practice should be winging its way back to me soon and I’m looking forward to being reunited with it.

ISWC Design Exhibition at Microsoft Research Gallery, Redmond, WA, USA
Baroesque Barometric Skirt exhibited at the Microsoft Research Gallery in Redmond, WA, USA. Image by kind permission of James Hallam of Georgia Tech, whose Ballet Hero garment is also featured in this photo.

ISWC Design Exhibition at Microsoft Research Gallery, Redmond, WA, USA

Some of the other exhibits on show at Microsoft Research Gallery. Images by kind permission of James Hallam.

ISWC Design Exhibition at Microsoft Research Gallery, Redmond, WA, USA

Whilst in Seattle at ISWC, I took advantage of the interesting decor of the Motif Hotel to make a new video of the skirt. Many thanks to Johnny Farringdon for being my cameraman 🙂

Quantified Self Europe 2014: Emotive Wearables Breakout Session

Quantified Self Europe pre-party

It was great to visit Amsterdam again and see friends at the 3rd Quantified Self Europe Conference, previously I have spoken at the conference on Sensing Wearables, in 2011 and Visualising Physiological Data, in 2013.

There were two very prominent topics being discussed at Quantified Self Europe 2014, firstly around the quantifying of grief and secondly on privacy and surveillance. These are two very contrasting and provocative areas for attendees to contemplate, but also very important to all, for they’re very personal areas we can’t avoid having a viewpoint on. Rather than me try to summarise a few of the talks, if you’d like to find out more about the excellent presentations and discussions at the conference, search for ‘QSEU14’ or ‘europe’ on the Quantified Self website where many of the sessions have write-ups, photos and video documentation.

My contribution to the conference was to lead a Breakout Session on Emotive Wearables and demonstrated my EEG Visualising Pendant. Breakout Sessions are intended for audience participation and I wanted to use this one-hour session to get feedback on my pendant for its next iteration and also find out what people’s opinions were on emotive wearables generally.

I’ve been making wearable technology for six years and have been a PhD student investigating wearables for three years; during this time I’ve found wearable technology is such a massive field that I have needed to find my own terms to describe the areas I work in, and focus on in my research. Two subsets that I have defined terms for are, responsive wearables: which includes garments, jewellery and accessories that respond to the wearer’s environment, interactivity with technology or physiological signals taken from sensor data worn on or around the body, and emotive wearables: which describes garments, jewellery and accessories that amplify, broadcast and visualise physiological data that is associated with non-verbal communication, for example, the emotions and moods of the wearer. In my PhD research I am looking at whether such wearable devices can used to express non-verbal communication and I wanted to find out what Quantified Self Europe attendees opinions and attitudes would be to such technology, as many attendees are super-users of personal tracking technology and are also developing it.

Demo-ing EEG Visualising Pendant

My EEG Visualising Pendant is an example of my practice that I would describe as an emotive wearable, because it amplifies and broadcasts physiological data of the wearer and may provoke a response from those around the wearer. The pendant visualises the brainwave attention and meditation data of the wearer simultaneously (using data from a Bluetooth NeuroSky MindWave headset), via an LED (Light Emitting Diode) matrix, allowing others to make assumptions and interpretations from the visualisations. For example, whether the person wearing the pendant is paying attention or concentrating on what is going on around them, or is relaxed and not concentrating.

After I demonstrated the EEG Visualising Pendant, I invited attendees of my Breakout Session to participate in a discussion and paper survey about attitudes to emotive wearables and in particular feedback on the pendant. We had a mixed gender session of various ages and we had a great discussion, which covered areas such as, who would wear this device and other devices that also amplified one’s physiological data. We discussed the appropriateness of such personal technology and also thought in depth about privacy and the ramifications of devices that upload such data to cloud websites for processing, plus the positive and the possible negative aspects of data collection. Other issues we discussed included design and aesthetics of prominent devices on the body and where we would be comfortable wearing them.

I am still transcribing the audio from the session and analysing the paper surveys that were completed, overall the feedback was very positive. The data I have gathered will feed into the next iteration of the EEG Visualising Pendant prototype and future devices. It will also feed into my PhD research. Since the Quantified Self Europe Conference, I have run the same focus group three more times with women interested in wearable technology, in London. I will update my blog with my findings from the focus groups and surveys in due course, plus of course information on the EEG Visualising Pendant’s next iteration as it progresses.

Ada Lovelace Day 2013 – Lynne Bruning, E-textile Enchantress Extraordinaire

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Now in its forth year, ALD celebrates women in technology and science, from students to the famous names and of course Ada Lovelace herself. Ada was a mathematician who is known as the world’s first computer programmer because of her notes suggesting the first algorithm for computer, for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose computer. On Ada Lovelace Day it is now traditional to write a blog post about a women in technology or science who one finds inspiring.

Raw choc caek in Inspiral with Lynne & Nikki.
Lynne also has excellent taste in caek!

This year I’m writing about my good friend, Lynne Bruning, tech educator, fashion designer, innovator, e-textile enchantress, blogger and whose non-stop enthusiasm for all things wearable tech, fashion, art and life itself is an inspiration.

Lynne uses her BA in Neurophysiology from Smith College, a Masters in Architecture from the University of Colorado and her family history in textiles to create stunning, colourful, bespoke technology infused fashions and as her blog says, Lynne “jets thru the universe creatively cross-pollinating the worlds of science, textiles, fashion and technology”. She is constantly updating her website and others such as Instructables with new tutorials, how tos, with news of testing components and ideas for getting the most out of making e-textiles and wearable technology – who else would conduct a thorough investigation into the best conductive thread to buy and what to avoid? Lynne, also periodically broadcasts her tech tips and tricks, and conducts show ‘n’ tells on The eTextile Lounge, on Livestream, where lively conversation between Lynne, her guests and viewers can be found.

In terms of innovation, Lynne has created a technique to hand-weave conductive thread and LEDs. Her work also includes the creation of assistive wearable technologies, such as her Bats haptic coat, which is designed to assist visually impaired wearers to navigate their environment using sonar. If an object is within 24″ a vibrating motor will activate and buzz that an object is coming up in the users path. See image below.

Lynne Bruning's Bats haptic coat

Not content with all of the above, Lynne also exhibits her work and has curated wearable tech shows and workshops at events such as Maker Faires, plus gives presentations on technology, fashion and e-textiles.